Niklas Bruun, the chair of the Board: A society that does not acknowledge the significance of science and research cannot succeed

In its first meeting, held in December, the Board of the University of Helsinki elected Niklas Bruun, LLD, as its chair. Bruun is professor emeritus of commercial law at the Hanken School of Economics. Among other positions, he has served as the Swedish-language professor of private law at the University of Helsinki and the chair of the National Non-Discrimination and Equality Tribunal of Finland appointed by the government.

Bruun thinks that the Board, whose term begins in January 2022, has three important tasks at hand. 

“Safeguarding the preconditions for research and teaching as well as ensuring the stability of University finances constitute a key task. The government is providing €67 million in capital to Finnish universities as a one-time subsidy from the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra. The governmental matched-funding scheme currently underway runs until the end of June 2022. The Board wishes to support this effort to spur the University’s stakeholders and friends to make new donations in the final stretch of the campaign,” says Bruun.

As the second topical task for the Board, Bruun refers to further advancing the discussion on science and education policy within the University community, in cooperation with the University Collegium as well as the rector and vice-rectors.

The third major task is the management of the still ongoing coronavirus pandemic and related aftercare.

“The pandemic has had a great impact on teaching and students: new students from two academic years have been forced into a difficult position by the circumstances brought about by the pandemic. According to an estimate by the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare, one-third of all students are experiencing depression or anxiety. Student wellbeing affects University operations comprehensively, and it must be supported,” Bruun says.

Science advice and collaboration with other universities

Bruun also points to the role of science advice, noting that it will be one of the issues to be highlighted in the new Board term. Serving as the basis for this is the Science Advice Initiative of Finland (Sofi) carried out collaboratively by the four Finnish academies of science and letters.

“Looking at the current situation in the world, you can justifiably say that a society that does not acknowledge the significance of science and research cannot succeed. However, understanding this at the University is not enough. Decision-makers and the general public too must have access to research-based knowledge.”

According to Bruun, the University of Helsinki has an important role in the promotion of the status of science and research as Finland’s largest, most diverse and internationally recognised research university. At the same time, he brings up the importance of equal collaboration with smaller units as well.

“The University of Helsinki operates in Finland from Hanko to Kilpisjärvi, in addition to which it actively collaborates with other universities and partners. We wish to be a fair and equal partner.”

Finally, Bruun sends his greetings to the University community.

“The Board is here for the community! We strive for positive interaction with the community. Hopefully, we can initiate visits to the University campuses and faculties as soon as the pandemic situation allows,” he says.